Sun-downing is a phenomenon that occurs in Senior’s affected by a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. It can be described as “late-day confusion.”  Confusion, anxiety, paranoia, and restlessness can occur around dusk time, continue throughout the nights, and resolve by morning.  For a family member, “Sun-downing” is very real and scary when a loved one starts exhibiting signs.

Signs & Symptoms

Fading light seems to be the trigger event that causes the Sun-downing syndrome.  It is thought that Senior’s inner body clock is affected by memory changes due to Dementia.  The area of the brain that signals for the mind to be awake or asleep does not process correctly.  A senior affected by Sun-downing can exhibit all or a few symptoms such as agitation, restlessness, confusion, disorientation, paranoia.  Quiet, mild-mannered seniors may start yelling, pacing, demanding, and have changes in mood swings when Sundowning.

5 Steps to Manage a Senior affected by Sundowning

  1. Keep a Daily Routine
    Regular wake up and sleep schedule.  Try to keep appointments and daily visits to the earlier part of the day
  1. Keep them Active
    Many people that experience Sun-downing suffer from fatigue.  Try to limit daytime napping.  Promote ambulation in the earlier part of the day.  Create a daily cycle.
  1. Minimize Stress
  2. Provide Comfort & Calmness in the Evening
    Take action to decrease light source.  For example, lower blinds to their bedroom; decrease over- stimulation.  Provide a calm environment for rest
  1. Keep Senior Safe & provide repetition task-oriented jobs
    For example, give a Senior a basket of wash clothes to fold.  It is repetitious & they are exerting energy in a safe way that will also help to one task focused

Sundowning is a phenomenon that often occurs in Alzheimer’s and dementia Seniors.  Learning your loved one’s triggers and taking note of patterns can help to keep them safe and happy in their home. Sundowning is not always preventable, but managing the signs can decrease the overall symptoms of the syndrome.